The teen “alcohol-drug-use” topic is nothing new, so I thought I was up to speed on the pertinent facts, but was surprised to learn about the lower blood-alcohol limit for drivers under 21 when it comes to a potential charge of DUI.
A couple of beers might be enough to reach that limit, according to Chris Harnish, Drug and Alcohol Counselor at . Harnish and School Resource Officer Chad Schumacher of the spoke about laws and recent trends at last week’s February 8, PTA meeting.
Officer Schumacher said the recent on Mercer Island grew from a concern that it is hard for police to monitor underage drinking parties that occur in private homes—sometimes when you knock on the door it gets quiet and the lights go out. You can gather license plate numbers and alert parents, but the law provides law enforcement an additional resource in these situations. A couple of parents in the audience said they too are using the existence of the new law as an additional argument in their cautionary conversations with their teens. One parent told her daughter, “You don’t want to be responsible for getting me or another parent in trouble.”
Schumacher said the police will use discretion and review the circumstances before they decide to forward a case to the City Attorney, who will ultimately decide who to “charge” with this non-criminal civil infraction. He said that the ordinance covers parties of “4 or more” persons under the age of 19.
Harnish talked about products that attract underage drinkers because they combine fun flavors with high alcohol content. Smirnoff makes “Smirnoff Ice,” hard liquor flavored like Fluffy Marshmallow, Whipped Cream, Mango, Pineapple and Coconut. It’s a mixed drink in one bottle.
Another example is Four Loko, a drink that comes in a colorful can and fruity flavors, blamed for sickening 9 Central Washington University students who were hospitalized after a freshman party in 2010. At that time, the product was taken off the shelves in our state because it was believed that the high caffeine content masked the effects of the alcohol. Four Loko is back, but without the caffeine, in flavors like Fruit Punch and Blue Raspberry. The problem with Four Loko, said Harnish, is that one 24 oz bottle has about the same alcohol content as 6 beers. So if someone has two of these, they may think they’ve only had two drinks, but it’s really more like having 12 beers. “Black out in a can,” is what some kids call it, Harnish added.
Another new detail: 206 275-7955 is an Anonymous Tip Line at MIPD, where calls go immediatley to voicemail and you can leave an anonymous message.
A final parting note, the experts also said kids report that it’s easier to get Marijuana on Mercer Island than alcohol. Whew, we’ll save that topic for another day.
Hopefully these additional details will make conversations with your teens and pre-teens more effective. If you know what’s going on, your kids may feel your concerns and advice are more relevant.